“You might want to put the top up, Nancy,” George
suggested in a serious tone. “Looks like a storm is rolling in.”
blue eyes followed George’s gesture across the lake. Black, bloated storm
clouds stole swiftly toward them. Nancy pressed the closure button in silent
agreement, but not before an ominously wet wind exhaled through the cab. The
girls shivered. Nancy turned her eyes back to the bumper of Bev’s car.
agreeing to stay at the castle, the girls retrieved their luggage and checked
out of their hotel. Bev waited for them at the BBQ place. Soon they were all
headed back to the castle.
Drive, though familiar, was not as friendly as before. Clouds cast dark shadows
in the trees that swayed and clawed at the car in the unruly winds. Thunder rumbled
ominously in the distance.
road is a lot spookier now than it was earlier,” Bess shivered. She glanced at
Nancy. “Why, Nancy! You’re practically smiling!”
looked back at her in the rearview mirror with sparkling eyes. “The spookiness
just deepens the mystery!”
and George laughed just as they rounded a corner, revealing the castle looming
forebodingly on their left. As if on cue, a bolt of lightning streaked through
the sky behind it.
suddenly screamed, causing Nancy to brake.
saw a ghost! A-a man’s face…in the window!”
didn’t see anything. The lightning was probably playing tricks on your eyes,”
did I,” started Nancy, “but I had my eyes on the road. Bev braked about the
same time we did, though, so perhaps she saw something.”
peal of thunder rattled the car, causing Bess to shiver. “Oh, I do hope we make
it in before it rains!”
be indoors in 60 seconds if it can hold off that long,” George replied,
glancing nervously at the sky.
left turn signal lit up, and she turned into the gated drive of the cottage. Both
cars sped down the driveway in hopes of beating the rain. Moments later, they
“Why don’t we all go inside for now and explore the castle
once the storm blows over?” Bev suggested over the rumbling thunder. “I’ll
help you with your luggage.”
They unloaded the car in one trip, rushing inside to the
sound of rain sweeping across the lake.
“We made it!” George exclaimed with relief as the deluge
smacked against he windows.
“Just barely,” Bess breathed, also relived to be indoors.
“I’ll go start a fire in the fireplace,” Bev offered
hospitably. “How do s’mores and hot chocolate sound? They beat the chill of
this old house.”
“That sounds wonderful!” Nancy replied. “How can we help?”
“You can help by making yourselves at home!” Bev beamed with
Southern pride. “Sorry most of the house is just boxes and furniture meant for
the castle, but I do keep one guest bedroom clear.” She showed them its
location. The girls put their luggage down and freshened up before returning to
the livng room. Bev had already started the fire and brought out large metal
skewers for the marshmallows.
“Bev,” Nancy began casually, “you braked rather suddenly in
front of the castle. Did something catch your attention?”
Bev noticably paled at the question and looked away. “The
lightning just did spooky things to the castle; that’s all,” she answered with
a nervous laugh.
“You saw the ghost, too?” Bess blurted out excitedly.
“You also saw it?” Bev asked in return, incredulously. Then
she groaned, “I really am in a mess! This place is haunted!”
“Perhaps there was a real person in the castle,” Nancy
offered. “He may be our vandal.”
“Do you think so?” Bev’s face filled with hope.
Nancy smiled encouragingly. “I’ve yet to stumble across a
mystery where the culprit is actually a ghost, even if they give the apperance
of it until the very last moment.”
Bev still looked fearful. “But it’s still possible.”
“But highly improbable,” Nancy replied firmly.
burning smell wafted into the room.
hot chocolate! It sure got hot fast!” Bev started for the kitchen but then stopped.
“Wait, that’s not coming from the kitch—”
cut off as Nancy bolted toward the direction of the guest bedroom. Smoke
billowed from the doorway, and Nancy waved the smoke from her face enough to
realize the bed was on fire.
Recalling a stack of new mop buckets in the adjoining
bathroom, she grabbed one and filled it with water from the bathtub. The others
followed suit, and soon the fire was extinguished.
that sure was exciting,” George remarked with bewildered sarcasm.
Nancy went to open the window to let out the
smoke but found it already ajar. ‘That’s odd,’ Nancy thought suspiciously. ‘It
wasn’t open before.’ Aloud she asked, “Did either of you girls open this window
and George answered no.
you should call the police, Bev. There was no reason for this bed to catch on fire
by itself. I suspect arson,” Nancy concluded.
no, it’s the ghost,” Bev moaned forlornly. Nancy’s serious expression lightened
as she turned to Bev with twinkling eyes.
ghosts don’t need to open windows in order to get through them,” she pointed
out. Bev broke into a relieved grin and excused herself to call the police.
shouldn’t touch anything until the police get here,” Nancy instructed.
“Hopefully the mud is deep enough that the rain won’t wash away any footprints.”
Nancy glanced around the room then suddenly leaned over the bed. “Why, that
looks like charred newspaper!”
wasn’t even a newspaper in this room” George declared, astonished.
suppose that’s what our arson used to start the fire,” deduced Nancy.
hardly even started this case, and already it’s getting dangerous!” Bess
exclaimed fearfully. “Perhaps we should call this whole thing off all
leave Bev alone in this mess?” George countered determinedly. Bess dropped her
head. Nancy put an arm around her reassuringly. “I don’t believe the vandal
means to harm us, just scare us. The sooner we solve this case, though, the
Bess agreed, still frightened. The girls exited the
room to find Bev just getting off the phone with the police.
said they’d send someone right away,” she informed them before they had a
chance to ask.
bubbling noises gurgled from the kitchen.
hot chocolate!” Bev cried, running for the stove. “It’s saved!” she called back
after stirring it. “It didn’t scorch!”
laughed, relieving some of the tension.
suddenly had an idea. “Let’s make s’mores for the officers,” she suggested.
“This is terrible weather to be out in, after all.”
overheard from the kitchen. “I’ve got Styrofoam to-go cups for hot chocolate as
well!” she added. She continued stirring while Nancy, Bess, and George settled
themselves by the fireplace to make s’mores. Just as a plate had been filled, the
officers arrived. Bess answered the door.
received a call about a fire here,” one of the officers stated.
in one of the bedrooms,” Bess specified, leading them to the scene of the fire.
Nancy and George joined them there.
like some old newspapers caught fire on the bed,” one officer observed after a
but there weren’t any newspapers in this room. We were in here minutes before
it happened,” George explained. “And the window wasn’t open.”
did open the window a bit more to let the smoke out,” Nancy clarified, “but it
was already ajar…as if someone had hurriedly tried to close it from the
officers glanced at each other. “Do you have anyone in mind who would want to
start a fire here?”
not specifically,” Nancy replied, “though we suspect it’s the same person who’s
been sabotaging renovations at the castle.”
officers took note of this. After inspecting the room, snapping a few pictures,
and bagging up pieces of charred newspaper, the officers walked outside to
check for footprints. Soon they returned to the living room. One officer’s gaze
wandered toward the plate of s’mores. Bess noticed and smiled. “Those are for
you, for coming out in this weather!”
s’mores?” he asked, surprised.
chocolate!” Bev interjected, finally emerging from the kitchen with two
Styrofoam cups in hand. “Remind me to top them off again before you leave!”
officers were genuinely touched by the gesture and gratefully accepted.
Everyone sat in the living room while they filled out a police report on the
did you find outside, Officer…?” Nancy trailed off as she realized she knew
neither of their names. Introductions had been forgotten in the excitement.
beg your pardon!” apologized the older officer. “I’m Officer McKlellan, and
this is Officer Wilcox.” He gestured to the younger officer whose mouth was full.
Officer McKlellan broke into a sly grin, eyes dancing as he teased, “He’s still
Wilcox gulped and smiled politely, reaching for another s’more. “We’ll come
back any time.”
room erupted with laughter. Once everyone quieted and introductions were made
around the room, Nancy repeated her question.
McKlellan paused thoughtfully. “Not a single footprint, even though the mud
should’ve held marks under the eaves. Absolutely nothing.”
turned pale and sat up in horror. “It is
Fact sandy Fiction? Russian Women Want To Escape Out Russia
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Sarah Weinman, a scholar of detective fiction, has assembled a fine collection of mystery novels written by women in the 1940s and 1950s. As always with books from the Library of America, Women Crime Writers is beautifully made, and the collection has not gone unnoticed. A mention in the New Yorker followed an interview in the Paris Review, which followed notices in newspapers from the New York…
Summer is just around the corner. I hope everyone is ready for another season of Women in Detective Fiction Book Club! If you have any books you would like to recommend for the summer, or any books you would like us to read, send me a message here or a tweet, @WomenCrimeFic.
I will have a final list of books posted here and on our GoodReads page by the end of May.
From the prologue of Kelly Braffet’s “Last Seen Leaving,” one may be under the impression that the man giving the girl a lift after her car accident is up to no good as he passes the location where she specifically requested to be dropped off. Typically, when we see a stranded woman being picked up by a strange man we assume it’s not going to end well.
And it’s assumptions like this one that Braffet plays with throughout the book.
Unless you read the overly talkative book summary, this initial reaction to George may return when you encounter him again.
I’ll admit it–I fell momentarily into the assumption trap. I allowed myself to be creeped out because of the combination of George’s social awkwardness with the corpses conveniently washing up on shore. I persistently fought against the idea that George was the killer because it seemed entirely too convenient of a plot and would be disappointing for readers, or at least to me. George doesn’t seem dangerous. Just awkward.
We may want to believe he’s the beach serial killer because it’s comfortable to assume so, whereas it’s not comforting to imagine that the serial killer remains unknown. There seems to be a need to place the blame on someone, so we turn to the “creepy” guy, who is only creepy because he doesn’t seem to get out much and his social skills amount to a whomping Zero. But, because we see him and his “awkwardness” in relation to the unknown serial killer and the discovery of more bodies, everything George does becomes suspicious. [ex: Thinking he’s trying to hide his face from identification when the food is delivered or the manager knocks on the door. Heaven forbid the man may actually need to go to the bathroom].
I wrote to Braffet about her approach to George and here’s what she said:
“My hope with the end of Last Seen Leaving was that the questions I left unanswered would point people to the questions that I did resolve, which were in my mind the meat of the story: if Anne could reconcile herself to never knowing what happened to Nick, and if Miranda could reconcile herself to having only one, highly imperfect parent. I didn’ t intend George to be the serial killer. He’s a computer programmer, that’s all. My thinking was that he was contracted to the CIA, and found his way into some files he shouldn’t have been in; the people who come to question Miranda in the hospital are mostly interested in that. Honestly, I wrote that book quite a few years ago, and I can’t really remember if I’d intended the feds to actually mislead the public into thinking that he was the serial killer or not - either way, that’s what Miranda thinks, that he keeps showing up right before the bodies wash up, and that’s why she jumps out of the car.”
For those of you who have read LSL, what was your impression of George? Creepy? Serial Killer? Lonely? Really Miranda’s Dad?
Here’s a short clip in which Mina discusses women in crime fiction. Woot!
“Now you can have a female protagonist and it’s almost incidental that they’re female because people don’t comment on their gender all the time […] They’re no tied down like they used to be.” -Denise Mina
Denise Mina was born in Glasgow in 1966. Because of her father’s job as an engineer, the family followed the north sea oil boom of the seventies around Europe, moving twenty one times in eighteen years from Paris to the Hague, London, Scotland and Bergen. She left school at sixteen and did a number of poorly paid jobs: working in a meat factory, bar maid, kitchen porter and cook. Eventually she settled in auxiliary nursing for geriatric and terminal care patients.
At twenty one she passed exams, got into study Law at Glasgow University and went on to research a PhD thesis at Strathclyde University on the ascription of mental illness to female offenders, teaching criminology and criminal law in the mean time. Misusing her grant she stayed at home and wrote a novel, ‘Garnethill’ when she was supposed to be studying instead.
'Garnethill’ won the Crime Writers’ Association John Creasy Dagger for the best first crime novel and was the start of a trilogy completed by 'Exile’ and 'Resolution’.
A fourth novel followed, a stand alone, named 'Sanctum’ in the UK and 'Deception’ in the US. In 2005 'The Field of Blood’ was published, the first of a series of five books following the career and life of journalist Paddy Meehan from the newsrooms of the early 1980s, through the momentous events of the nineteen nineties. The second in the series was published in 2006, ‘The Dead Hour’ and the third will follow in 2007.
She also writes comics and wrote ‘Hellblazer’, the John Constantine series for Vertigo, for a year, published soon as graphic novels called ‘Empathy is the Enemy’ and ‘The Red Right Hand’. She has also written a one-off graphic novel about spree killing and property prices called ‘A Sickness in the Family’ (DC Comics forthcoming).
In 2006 she wrote her first play, “Ida Tamson” an adaptation of a short story which was serialised in the Evening Times over five nights. The play was part of the Oran Mor ‘A Play, a Pie and a Pint’ series, starred Elaine C. Smith and was, frankly, rather super. As well as all of this she writes short stories published various collections, stories for BBC Radio 4, contributes to TV and radio as a big red face at the corner of the sofa who interjects occasionally, is writing a film adaptation of Ida Tamson and has a number of other projects on the go. How does she do it all? Well, her personal grooming is shameful, her house is filthy and her children run wild in the fields. She found a mushroom in the shower the other day. What sort of woman is that?“